The two paragraphs in this tweet (summarizing the findings of this book) are the great koan of American politics. Understand the why of this, and you will have reached enlightenment.
Inequality does not lead the public to favor policies that reduce it. It makes racially biased citizens less egalitarian & more supportive of Republicans.— Matt Grossmann (@MattGrossmann) September 25, 2020
More Republican control in Congress increases inequality, which in turn increases Republican control. pic.twitter.com/q9UmpHlaVY
A thing I see play out over and over again is that higher ed administrations cut faculty lines or leave them unfilled, and the remaining faculty respond by increasing their own workloads so as to not hamper students' progression towards graduation. They do cut their workload in some ways - "I used to have [X] as a class assignment, a decade ago, but now that my classes are twice as large, I've had to change it to [Y] to keep up with the grading" - but only these soft changes that are impossible to quantify on any scale. (And adjuncts are hired, of course, but the service workload increases for the remaining tenure/tenure-track faculty. And you can run through your adjunct budget and still need more teachers, and be back in the same situation.)
What they don't do is reduce how many courses they're offering and cap course size and make current students collateral damage. In other words, say ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, "I'm so sorry - I agree that it would be great to take this course, and you should consider transferring, and at your exit interview, be sure to tell the people in charge that you're transferring because you can't get into the course you need." This would be awful for students in the shortterm, but is really the only bargaining chip to get administrators to fundamentally see that there is a trade-off to cutting faculty lines.
Now, my observations come from a sample comes from incredibly earnest educators. First, the faculty at Heebie U would never consider the trade-off above. (And to be fair, the situation at Heebie U is not as dire as elsewhere, because our administration is also sweet and earnest (at this moment in time)). Second, the math colleagues that I work with most closely at other institutions tend to be at (severely underfunded) public institutions and very passionate about teaching. (And of course, the admininstrations there are constrained by the amount allocated by the state, although at the university level they can of course make terrible decisions in addition.) But my point is that I'm only in contact with faculty who would never use undergrads as pawns in this way.
But I do think that they should consider doing a kinder, gentler version of the above: take stock of your department. Decide on reasonable amounts of work to deliver, based on how many people are employed by the department, and how large classes have traditionally been. Then base what you offer on your staffing, and not (entirely) on the number of students who need your classes, and explain to the administration why there is such a large gap.
(Maybe this plays out differently in other disciplines and states! I have no idea.)
(This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while.)
Clearly I cannot keep this simple thing together. Maybe I'll just aim to keep one on the front page at all times.
You guys, I am torn up about this decision, and anyone who wants to do a deep dive is invited to do so. The school district goes F2F in October, and we have to decide whether to send the Giblets in or keep them home.
A bunch of considerations in no particular order:
1. The poor teachers are being asked to jointly teach remote students and their live students. How tf this is supposed to work is beyond me, and I am so sorry for them.
Nevertheless, this means the Giblets will be the kids sadly watching all their friends on a screen. That seems awful.
2. This current month of remote school is really hard. We have a caretaker who is absolutely a godsend for three hours a day, but it's still pretty hard.
3. We could probably increase her hours. But at a certain point the kids would be overly familiar with her and could really unleash behavior issues on her.
4. Jammies will be at the high school from 7:30-5 pm, instead of his current 7:30-12, and then working at home thereafter. So even with more hours of a caretaker/tutor, it's a lot on me while I'm trying to get my
blogging own job done.
5. Hawaii is taking dance at middle school. So she'd have a class where they're exercising indoors. Everyone would have PE, but somehow I'm hopeful that PE would be outside. Maybe. But there are also teachers who aren't taking this very seriously, so it's entirely possible a gym teacher would say that they should just run around indoors on a rainy day.
6. If we just pulled them out altogether and tried to find a public online school or homeschool, they'd lose the Spanish dual language aspect.
All options are just terrible. I am going in circles here.
The only mitigating factor is that the next chance to change our minds is in November, at the end of the first 9 weeks. So this first decision is only binding for a month.
I hoped writing all this out would make it clear to me, but nope.
Before RBG died, Kevin Drum has posted this thing on the salience of abortion as an issue in the election, and it had really gotten under my skin. I had a post semi-pre-written about it, but now of course it's totally moot, because it's not a sleeper issue anymore - it's now prime stage.
When it was a sidelined issue, my post went something like this: That article describes wealthy, white suburban Trump voters who use abortion to justify their vote. For them to vote for Trump based on abortion is just the laziest, thinnest of pretexts. The half that believe themselves when they say it are no better than the half that knows it's bullshit.
Anyway, now no one is trotting it out of their own accord - it's now going to be discussed left, right, and center. In the middle of massive unemployment, the complete and utter failure of the government to respond with a desperately-needed stimulus package, a fucking pandemic, mass protests against police brutality and threats of martial law, and on and on, the fucking path to re-election for Mr. Drool-Feces is abortion. I'm just sputtering with anger.
It's just such a fake issue. If I have a good faith conversation with someone who is anti-abortion, we can find lots of common ground in how to reduce teen pregnancies, give people access to birth control, and so on. But those are all off the table for the national conversation about abortion, because it's about the tiny jellybean on the billboard with the heartbeat, and punishing those dirty-but-titillating-women for their deliciously slutty ways. It's just a fucking game to the men pushing this agenda.
Bah. As a society, we've set up a structure where grades are super important and cheating is super easy. Some kinds of cheating are easy to catch, others are impossible to catch, and then we are incredibly offended and horrified when it happens (sort of).
Then along comes remote teaching, and preventing cheating is a fool's game. My basic strategy is to make the class so interactive that just by being polite, you are forced into getting a certain amount of the material, and then hopefully from there, you are willing to stretch yourself to complete the homeworks and tests with some degree of honesty. (Also I write a lot of my own worksheets, quizzes, and tests to be un-google-able where possible.)
The point is that I have zero interest in policing them against cheating, and I am not planning on descending down the rabbit-hole of making them turn on their cameras during tests, using anti-cheating software, or any of the rest of the panopticon.
(And yet, I'm super irritated that a bunch of my students clearly cheated on a quiz question last week that was totally within their reach. There has never been a Calculus 1 student in the history of time who has had to simplify (6-x)2-16 and has thought "ah! This is a clever opportunity for difference of squares!" and came up with ((6-x)-4)((6-x)+4) as the obvious next step, let alone multiple such students in my class this semester.)
Motivation is a real problem when you are forcing someone to take a class that they're not very enthusiastic about. Right now, high-stakes grades are supposed to drive motivation, but clearly there are plenty of perverse consequences of the "when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure" kind.
One possibility is that we never force students to take classes that they're not enthusiastic about. But I am not in favor of that. I do not have a good scale-able solution for the lack of motivation and the cheating seductiveness that we've set up for completing coursework.
Sarah, a old friend of Jesus's, (but not Jesus's Grace) asked if I could share this link with you all, a Kudoboard for sharing memories and photos of Jesus McQueen. This is more of an immediate source of comfort, as opposed to the book, which is a longer and more involved labor of love.
Sarah writes, "I know the girls would love to learn about his reach and hear reflections from his friends. And. He loved y'all so."